tv Larry King Live CNN November 21, 2010 3:00am-4:00am EST
they lie. what can i do about liars? are you people going to leave us? i just beg you. please leave us. we will bother nobody. anybody that wants to get out of here, they can get out of here. we have no problem about getting out of here. they come and do it all the time. i don't know what kind of game -- people like the publicity. some people do, i don't. >> the sky turned black, the wind came up and the wind came up strong and it was just torrential rain. >> when the rain came, the parks family and others took shelter in an open-air shed. in an open-air shed. that's little tracy parks on the right in the blue windbreaker. jim jones is there, too, talking with the bogue family who had been among jones' earliest followers and now wanted to leave, as well. >> that really -- that sent shock waves through me. >> jones moved over to talk to edith parks and her family. young tracy was distraught.
>> i was crying and wiping my tears with the hat. the tears were not anything other than i was scared to death. i was really down deep in my heart thinking, we're going to die. >> this is the last shot of the reverend jim jones that day as his grip on people was cracking. the rain stopped. the parks family walked toward a waiting truck. that's tracy again staying close to her older brother. as the group was leaving, another family was being torn apart. >> get back here. you bring those kids back here! you bring them back! >> one second. one second. >> don't you touch my kids. >> this mother resisted when others in her family wanted to go. in the end, the family would
stay and all would die. >> emotions were starting to just become very tense. and i recognized that we were in a powder keg. >> this is vern gosney dragging his belongings toward the departing truck. he tried to warn the congressman they were all in danger. >> he told me i had the congressional shield of protection over me and that i had nothing to worry about. i thought he was totally out of his mind. >> congressman leo ryan carrying the briefcase had planned to stay the night to help get more families out. then a church member came up behind him. >> and all of a sudden he puts a knife up to his throat and he says, all right, mf, you're going to die. we all jumped on him anyway. we all got the knife away. >> you can see blood spatters on ryan's shirt, from the attacker, not ryan. the ride to the small airport at port kaituma was slow, bumpy and tense.
>> and you could just sense the fear in everyone. you could just feel it like it was bouncing off each other. >> when they reached the airport, don harris asked a shaken ryan about the knife attack. >> yeah, he said, something about rob and choke and kill or knife -- i don't know. what he said was he intended to kill me. >> within minutes all three men here, congressman leo ryan, reporter don harris and the nbc cameraman behind the lens bob brown, seen earlier, the same day, would be dead. shot by jim jones' gunmen. just ahead -- ambush at the airport. >> i looked out the window and i said, they're killing everyone. they're killing everyone.
the feelings are just like it happened yesterday. >> 30 years later tracy parks came back to this small airport near jonestown. did you feel like you were home free when you got to the airport? >> yeah, pretty much i thought, yeah, i'm going home. >> on that day, november 18th, 1978, 15 defectors got off the
truck at port kaituma airport. six in the parks family, seven with the bogue family, plus vern gosney and his friend. that's vern walking toward us. >> when i got there, we unloaded and i had a feeling of foreboding. >> this man, larry layton, was a faithful follower of jones. he worried congressional aide jackie speier. >> the only thing that was really bothering me was that all of a sudden larry layton had and decided he was a defector, he just had a gut instinct, just an intuition. >> jackie speier seen here, got people moving toward this plane, a 19-seat otter. that's jerry parks walking with his wife. tracy parks and her brother dale got on the smaller plane, so did larry layton and vern gosney.
>> the pilots started the plane and we were taxiing, and we were coming down the runway to take off and then the tractor trailer with the assassins cut in front of our plane. >> this is that tractor and farm wagon. >> and that's when i heard the shooting, and i looked out the window and i said, they're killing everyone. they're killing everyone. i turned and that's when larry shot me once in each side. >> larry layton, the false defector. at the same time, these gunmen leaped from that farm wagon as it pulled up near the larger plane. the nbc cameraman taking this footage was shot dead. >> i really didn't know what was happening at first. i didn't know what the sounds meant, and then when i realized that they were gunshots, i just -- i ran under the plane.
>> leo ryan ducked behind a wheel but was killed. the only u.s. congressman ever assassinated while in office. these are photos never seen publicly until now. lying behind ryan, the body of nbc reporter don harris. this newspaper photographer also was killed. jerry parks, 30 years ago. >> shot the reporters on the ground and the congressman. they come from the pickup -- the dump truck from the other side and got off and stuck the guns to their head point blank and blew their brains out. just shot them up terrible. >> the newsmen, the congressman and his aide jackie speier were clearly the target. >> and i was shot. five times. but the first thing i thought was, oh, my god, this is it. i'm 28 years old. and my life is over.
>> inside the larger plane, jerry parks was sitting across from his wife, patty, when bullets came through the windows. >> i heard my mom holler, my god, look at patty. and i turned around and looked and the whole top part of her head was gone. >> the tractor was over there. >> her daughter tracy. >> when they started shooting down here at the big plane, that's when larry layton started on our little plane. he shot the two people in front of us. then he turned around and pointed the gun at my brother's chest and the bullet we thought went off. he flew back and, you know, and acted like he had been hit and then looked down and realized he hadn't. >> dale and i struggled with larry to get the gun away. larry was hitting me and kicking me at that time, and i had to fight larry and i had to push up
through the pilot's seat and go out the pilot's door and then ran toward the jungle. >> a few steps into the jungle gosney collapsed. >> there was blood everywhere, and i thought, i'm dying. and then i blacked out. >> patricia parks' body was pulled from the larger plane. her daughter tracy back then. >> i didn't see her get shot but i saw her breathe in the plane and i saw her laying out on the ground. my mother was dead. they shot her, and my dad wanted to kind of not let me see that. >> worried the gunmen might return to the airport, jerry parks told his two daughters and three other youths to seek cover. >> we got them into the jungle and told them to stay there, don't come out till we come back
and holler for you. >> so where did you go? >> we just ran straight back through there, yeah. straight in. >> others carried a badly wounded jackie speier to the edge of the jungle. >> unfortunately, i was placed on an ant hill. but you don't sweat the small stuff when you're dying. >> reporters found the only painkiller in town. >> during the night, they would come and bring a bottle of rum and that's how i got through the night. sipping on a bottle of rum. >> jerry parks' worries were getting worse. >> before night came, we came back to the jungle. started hollering for the kids and no response. >> they never came. they said they did but we went so far we couldn't hear their voices. >> i thought, oh, my god, don't tell me they're lost.
earth. these are the final words in this unsigned suicide note. left behind amid the hundreds of bodies. tim carter saw the reverend jim jones teetering on the edge that day. >> you could see his jaws getting a little bit tighter, you know, and his arms being folded. >> after the truck left for the airport, carter turned to his wife. >> i said, i think we're all going to die. he's going to try to kill everybody. >> then an announcement over the loudspeaker. >> we walked up to the pavilion. it was very quiet. it was very somber. >> how very much i've loved you. how very much i've tried my best to give you a good life.
>> this from jim jones in the last tape-recording he ever made. >> if we can't live in peace then let's die in peace. >> he told his flock that this man, larry layton, planned to bring down congressman ryan's plane. >> they're going to shoot that pilot and down comes that plane into the jungle, and we had better not have any of our children left when it's over. >> he said the guyanese army would come through the jungle to torture them. >> when they start parachuting out of the air they'll shoot some of our innocent babies, and i don't think we should sit here and take any more time for our children to be endangered. >> this woman, christine miller, tried to argue with jim jones. >> i looked at all the babies, and i think they deserve to live. >> i agree but what more is their peace?
>> jones' mistress maria called tim carter aside. >> she says, come here. i think i have something for to you do. she goes, we have three suitcases of money supposed to be delivered to the soviet embassy in georgetown. >> as carter prepared to leave, he saw the airport gunmen return. >> the tractor trailer that had come from the airstrip came up and stopped at the kitchen, and these guys jumped out and said, we got the congressman. >> jim jones told his 900 followers. >> the congressman is dead. please get us some medication. it's simple. it's simple. there's no convulsions with it. please, can we hasten with that medication? you don't know what you've done. >> at one point, carter saw the mistress maria whisper in jones' ear.
>> and he looked at her and said, is there any way to make it taste less bitter? so out loud she goes, no. it's not. and he said, is it supposed to be quick? and she said, yeah, it's supposed to be quick. >> please for god's sakes let's get on with it. we've lived as no other people have lived and loved. we've had as much of this world as we're going to get. let's be done with it. let's be done with the agony of it. >> when the children cried, a jones loyalist told parents -- >> it's just a little bitter tasting. they're not crying out of any pain. >> there are screams of agony. there are screams of terror. you can hear people crying. >> keep your emotions down. keep your emotions down. no, it will not hurt if you'll be quiet.
if you'll be quiet. >> 303 children would die in jonestown that day from toddlers to teens. >> leslie wilson's nephew and her niece. vern gosney's son mark. a third of all the dead were children murdered at jim jones' command wracked with convulsions, a painful death. >> i tell you, i don't care how many screams you hear, i don't care how many anguished cried, death is a million times more preferable than ten more days of this life. >> what i experienced and saw was absolute chaos and insanity. >> die with a degree of dignity. lay down your life with dignity. don't lay down with tears and agony.
>> tim carter walked back to the pavilion and saw his 1-year-old son malcolm in the arms of his wife gloria. >> here's sharon cobb, the pediatric nurse practitioner with a syringe in malcolm's mouth. gloria is standing there tears streaming down her face. just agony written all over her face. >> these syringes found later were filled with cyanide to kill the children. >> all they're doing is taking a drink to go to sleep. that's what death is, sleep. >> malcolm was dead. his little lips covered with foam which is what happens with arsenic and cyanide is it foams at the mouth. i put my arms around gloria as she was holding malcolm and just kept on sobbing. i love you so much. i love you so much.
i held gloria until she died. >> the vat, the vat. where is the vat with the green -- bring it here so the adults can begin. >> jones' last self-serving words as the tape ends. >> we didn't commit suicide. we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world. >> jim jones did not drink the cyanide. when almost everyone else was dead, jones was shot in the head. probably by a trusted aide. before the end came, these three men tim carter on the left, his brother on the right, pr man mike prokes in the middle, were allowed to walk away from jonestown with the suitcases holding $500,000 in cash. >> we dumped the first suitcase in the fields next to the pavilion.
>> they abandoned all three suitcases in the jungle. authorities later recovered them. when the men paused to rest, carter said, he put a gun to his head. >> i knew that i would never get the sounds and the smells and the sights of jonestown out of my mind ever again. >> the three men walked on that night to port kaituma where they were taken into custody. a day or so later, carter and prokes were put into a helicopter and flown back to jonestown to identify bodies. 909 people lay dead. many face down. often the children lying hidden beneath them. >> as i walked through the
pavilion, i identified what bodies i could. i saw injection marks in people's arms. i saw one in the back of somebody's head. i saw them on somebody's neck. it was really evident to people that people had been just flat out murdered. held down and injected the ones that didn't want to drink the poison. >> several bottles of cyanide still sat on a table in the sunlight. this vat with the deadly kool-aid-type punch rested on a walkway. a parrot stood watch over the dead. in the suicide hall, this sign "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it" hung above the body of jim jones. >> i did notice jones' body on the stage with the bullet hole in the side of his head, and i remember thinking, the son of a bitch didn't even die the way everybody else died.
>> jones' body would be among the first to be identified through fingerprints taken when l.a. vice cops arrested him for lewd conduct in the men's room of a movie theater, an arrest he fought to hush up. the airport gunmen in the farm wagon would all die in the mass suicide. among them, leslie wilson's husband joe. larry layton, the lone shooter to survive, would not be paroled from a u.s. prison until 2002. tim carter and his companion spent a few days in a guyana police cell, then were released. four others in jonestown lived through the suicide night. two men were able to sneak away during the slaughter. one of them, odell rhodes. >> he was telling people it wasn't painful and that, you know, people had to die with dignity.
>> this 76-year-old woman asleep in the infirmary was overlooked. so was one elderly man. only 33 left alive out of almost a thousand faithful followers in jonestown that day. the rest came home in metal coffins as ostracized in death as they had been isolated in life. many of the children could not be identified. other victims went unclaimed. the unwanted, the unnamed were buried on a hillside more than 400 in a mass grave here in oakland, california. >> i don't think society cared because they were nameless. they were nameless faces.
>> leslie wilson's mother, her niece and nephew are here. on a recent summer day she stood and offered an epitaph for the reverend jim jones. >> i would say jim jones was a psychopathic, hypocritical, egotistical maniac who wanted to go down in history. unfortunately, he felt the need to take everyone else with him. >> when we come back, the lost children of the jungle. >> i pretty much thought i was going to die in there. we were hungry. we were thirsty. we had fevers. >> "escape from jonestown" continues.
the jungle grows right up to the edge of the airstrip at port kaituma. so where did you go? which way did you go? >> we just ran straight back through there. >> with her mother dead beside the runway, a congressman and three others killed, 12-year-old tracy parks ran for safety in the jungle. >> we ran too far and, of course, it's so thick that, like, once you get so far, you can't -- you get lost and in your direction. >> she was the youngest of five who fled. her 18-year-old sister and a boyfriend, a brother and sister in another family. >> we just kept running and running and running. >> they feared the gunmen would be back. you thought they were going to come kill you? >> i just knew they were going to get us.
i figured, well, they knew they didn't get everybody and they knew we were in there so we went in there, we wasn't even about to try to come back here. >> even if they could have found their way. >> it was so dark, so pitch black that you couldn't see two feet in front of you in there in the jungle at night. >> the five of them climbed into a half-fallen tree to spend the night. >> we heard shootings that first night but really it was the gunshots over in jonestown we were hearing, but -- so i -- we really didn't think we had anything to go back to. or, you know, any parents or anything. so we thought they finished off the rest of them. >> they thought everyone else had been killed. they were too scared to come out of hiding. >> the helicopters were actually flying over. we could hear them and at nighttime they were shining a
light down but we were hiding under banana leaves and whatever we could because we thought it was jim jones. i pretty much thought i was going to die in there because, you know -- >> in the jungle? >> yeah. i just -- we were hungry. we were thirsty. we had fevers. it was, you know, pretty -- all of us were sick. pretty sure it was the second night we all had a little hole that was like a water hole. >> they sensed an animal nearby. >> and my sister said, tracy, be quiet. she whispered it to me. be quiet. don't even breathe. >> to this day they don't know what it was. by the next morning the youngsters wanted to be found. >> we'd see a light off to the distance, and we'd get to running toward it and it would be a big hole up in the top where the sun was coming down through the trees.
>> the group came to this river and started across. >> i almost drowned. we had our clothes on and boots and everything else, plus we were weak from no food and no water and no sleep. >> tracy sank. her sister's boyfriend reached for her. >> he looked back and i was -- i had went under already and swallowed a bunch of the yucky water and then he looked back and just kind of slowed down and grabbed me by the jacket and just pulled me over to the side. >> saved you? >> saved me. >> the river was close to the airport. they stumbled up to the military guards there who sent for tracy's older brother. >> he come running up. i'll never forget the look on his face. it was like he had seen a ghost. >> tracy was taken to a small store nearby. >> i just laid there, and i
thought, i've already been through hell. what else could happen really doesn't matter. >> she was flown back to the guyanese capital to a reunion with her father at the police station. >> i knew when i saw him i'm going home. i'm going to be able to go home. and that was the first time i had ever really felt that since the day i had hit the gates to go in. >> ahead, 30 years of unending pain. >> whoever said time heals all wounds didn't know what the hell he was talking about. but mom had new puffs ultra soft & strong to save the day. with lotion-free pillows to cushion the force. puffs ultra soft & strong holds up better than value tissue of course.
in a way, this is the youngest survivor of jonestown, chad rhodes. just 19 when he was charged with murder and sent to prison for life without parole. his mother, pregnant with him survived the airport ambush the day jonestown died. on a winter night in oakland, california, in 1999, rhodes opened up with an assault rifle from an overpass and killed a policeman on the highway below. >> we heard a gunshot like boom, boom, boom, boom, more like four or five gunshots, yes, and then we heard a car took off from that area. >> trouble has been a fellow traveler for many through the years since jonestown. mike prokes, the pr man who helped walk away with the suitcases of cash, called a news conference early in 1979.
>> i refused to let my brothers and sisters and the others in jonestown die in vain. >> he got up, walked into the bathroom and shot himself to death. these two former church members outspoken critics of jones were shot to death in their home a year later in what police think was a family dispute. in 1984, in los angeles, one child was killed and 11 others wounded when a sniper, a young man whose parents died at jonestown, sprayed this schoolyard with gunfire. when police closed in, he shot himself to death. for survivors who lived through that last day in jonestown, ghosts return in different ways. for tim carter, it's a smell. >> i can't smell almonds to this day. it will make me physically
nauseous because cyanide smells like almonds and that's what it smelled like there that day was almond. >> for tracy parks it can be behind the wheel of her pickup truck. >> i still have fears of being shot driving down the street. i always feel like someone is going to shoot me. yeah, it scars you. >> for vern gosney, it could be walking down the street. >> i could see a man with light skin and black hair from behind and in my mind i thought jim jones was alive. >> the airport shooting left gosney in a hospital for months. >> i was shot through the stomach. i was shot through the liver. my diaphragm was torn. my stomach had a -- was torn. had a collapsed lung. my spleen ended up -- having to remove my spleen. >> at first he turned to painkillers. >> i was on anti-depressants. i was on tranquilizers.
i was on sedatives. >> then worst. >> and i started drinking and i started using elicit drugs, as well. >> he had gone back to work in a san francisco law office. >> when i look back on it now i don't even see how i walked around much less worked a full-time job. it was so painful for me to be conscious i just really -- i drank myself to unconsciousness every day. >> in 1982, gosney moved to the island of maui in hawaii with another commune that collapsed. when he lost one job, he applied for another with the maui police department. >> i didn't tell them that i was a chronic alcoholic. i didn't tell them that i was a jonestown survivor. i didn't tell them that i was hiv positive. i didn't tell them that i had a drug history. >> after a couple of years as a cop, he hit rock bottom.
finally, he stopped drinking, stopped using drugs and kept his job. >> i've been clean and sober for 19 years now, over 19 years. >> life has not been easy. >> i lost two partners, two beautiful men that i loved and were partnered with that i lost to aids. >> the license on gosney's truck says it all. >> a license plate "alive" is a celebration of me being alive and surviving jonestown, surviving everything that's happened in my life. >> survival for leslie wilson has been a 30-year battle. >> the guilt of living was insurmountable. i did not want to live. i literally did not want to live. i did not want to be here. >> five members of her family died the day she walked away. >> they know that i think i knew what was going to happen, that i just left them there to die.
>> you left your brother behind. >> my brother. >> how old was he? >> he was 16. and it doesn't help when your father says, how come you didn't get your brother out? >> what did you say to that? >> i was going to come back for him. it wasn't supposed to end like that. >> survivor guilt can be a poison in itself. you tried to kill yourself basically. >> oh, for sure. i was very, very self-destructive. >> what did you do? >> drugs the first. >> what kind? >> cocaine. cocaine. in the '80s. started snorting it by a party drug. >> by five years later? >> smoked out pretty much. >> in sacramento, california, in the mid-'80s leslie was arrested trying to cash a stolen check. >> actually saved my life. >> getting caught? >> yes. >> getting sent to prison? >> yes. >> how much time did you serve? >> only did five months.
>> but it was enough time to clean you up? >> oh, for sure, for sure. >> even as she straightened out her life, for years leslie wilson would not tell others she was a jonestown survivor. >> so i just lived underground. i just dug deep and i lied and i changed my name and i pretended to be this person that i wasn't because i could never talk about my family. people would talk about their high school reunions and most of my friends were dead. >> today leslie wilson is a grandmother, works with medical insurance claims and has written a book about life and jonestown. >> but i want people to understand that we weren't just names and not -- that we were human. and that we came back. it was not easy. it was not easy at all. >> congressional aide jackie speier came back on a stretcher. >> i was hospitalized for two months. i must have had over ten surgeries.
>> for a time she thought she had lost use of her right arm. >> how are you? >> i'm jackie speier and i'm running for congress. how are you? >> very good. >> she ran for her murdered congressman's seat but lost in a hard-fight primary and serve ed almost two decades in the california legislature. early in 2008, the leo ryan seat opened up again. this time jackie speier won in a runaway race. >> so help you god? >> i do. >> congratulations. you are now a member. >> and was sworn in after 30 years as a freshman congresswoman. for almost everyone who did survive, escape from jonestown was not a single day's journey. it has taken decades. >> it never goes away. >> tracy parks tried to hide in a bottle. >> i just drank because that's how i hid my pain as a teenager.
>> but nothing could chase away the feelings of chronic fatigue, constant stress and memories that came back at night. >> all the nightmares are i end up back there. i'm trying to get out. i'm trying to run through the jungle, and i know that i might not make it through the jungle. i'm trying to run through the jungle and i know that i might not make it through the jungle and i get up and literally have a panic attack, have to open the doors and walk outside and get air. >> for jerry parks, it may be a little easier each year. but no one is home free. even at the age of 75. >> i found in myself, in my case, that i break down real easy. i can cry real easy over the slightest little thing. whoever said time heals all wounds didn't know what the hell they was talking about. it doesn't. coming up, return to jonestown.
she called a hot line and was sent to this shelter with her 11-year-old daughter. >> i'll never forget. i was at church and my daughter walked in and she started crying. she goes, mommy. and i thought -- >> with moments like that, what remains remarkable is this -- in the years which have followed the horror that was jonestown, leslie and wilson other survivors have kept their faith, despite jim jones' betrayal of his god and theirs. how come you're still a religious person? >> i'm not religious. i'm spiritual. >> what's the difference? >> i don't believe in organized religion. >> because of jonestown? >> oh, a lot of people think it has a lot to do with it. a friend of mine asks me, how come you have so much faith and you don't go to church? i tell them, it's not an easy journey. >> tracy parks and her father have made the same journey.
>> i do not follow anybody religionwise or anything. i believe in god on my own. >> i believe in god. i believe in christ. but i don't believe you have to attend a church to make it into the next world. >> vern stands apart, literally. his body from neck to feet is tattooed with eastern religious symbols. >> they're gods and goddesses, mostly hindu. i would say i'm a pagan, a wiccan, buddhist. >> rather than renounce religion, he has opened himself to much of everything. >> it's a very important part of my life. meditation, prayer to whatever spark animates life. and i don't know what that is.
>> tracy parks' prayer was to come back to guyana, to the parpt where airport where her mother died to say farewell. >> i didn't think it would bother me like this. >> 30 years ago, tracy and her family had been unable to leave guyana in time for her mother's funeral back in the u.s. she brought flowers for a makeshift memorial next to the air strip. >> this is harder than i thought. >> of course. >> the words say simply "mom." she left four red roses, a picture of her mother, patricia parks, and a small wooden cross. then stood and said a silent prayer on the spot where her mother was shot to death along with congressman leo ryan and three newsmen.
why did you want to come back? >> for this. >> to make a real memorial? >> yes. i just wanted to say good-bye. >> then one last leg of the journey. six miles over a bumpy road back to jonestown. one thing was the same as the day she arrived 30 years ago. >> first thing i noticed was the heat was unbearable. >> everything else was different. an open field at what was the heart of the settlement. the buildings dismantled and carries away by natives. jungle growth retaking the land, so thick our guides needed ma -- chetes. for tracy parks, what is
important is what was not here. >> this is where it happened. so i had to bring myself back to feel the pain and the fears and see that it's gone really helped me. >> did you not believe it was gone? >> i had to see it for myself. >> that it was really gone? >> yeah. >> that no buildings stand? >> yeah. >> that he's not here. >> that he's not here. >> when one of the earliest members of the people's temple arrived here in guyana, he said jim jones told him the road to jonestown led in, but it did not lead out. for 900 people who followed jim jones here, he led them only to the grave. the sign in the rafters in the suicide hole read, those who do not remember the par